Accidents will happen”
Subscribing to lessons in the harp While Smokey and the Bandit write-off a few hundred cars all in the name of harmless entertainment and no cop show is complete without a high—speed smash. in the real world such an event would bring genuine tragedy to a family somewhere. Across the country. the science of road accidents is a serious matter for \chiclc accident investigators. including lleriot-Watt University‘s Vehicle Accident Investigation l'nit. The Edinburgh- based team work as consultants for Lothian and Borders Traffic Police. analysing. reconstructing and simulating accidents in order to discover their cause.
‘In the Borders particularly. you get accidents where there are no living witnesses.' says George Hartnup. Director of the [hit 'All we've got to go on is the damage to the vehicles. the marks on the road and where the vehicle has finished up. ()ften from this we can deduce with a fair bit of accuracy what happened.‘
The Science Festival gets off to a spectacular start with a series of simulated crashes organised by the Unit and the Police as a means of bringing home to drivers. pedestrians and cyclists the dangers of reckless driving. ‘A lot of the trouble is that. because cars have improved so much. people are not aware of how far it takes to stop, orjust how much damage you can do if you hit a tree when you're doing 60mph.‘ continues Hartnup. ‘If you hit a tree at 6()mph. you‘re subscribing to lessons on the harp.‘ (Alan Morrison) ('I'us‘li.’ Bung! Hill/(Ill, takes place a!
K ing 's Stub/es Road/rum [Ham on Su!
[0, with (1 TV link In the Science Dome.
I Dr Hugh Barron OIL-thenleen University talks on the Science (If/(mu!
Accidenls in the Royal Museum of Scot/uni] on ll’erl 2/ u! .i’..i()pm. £1.25
12 The List 9 22 April I993
_ Scots on top
The 0E2, James Watt’s parallel motion, steam hammers, Thomas Telford’s bridges: history books are filled with examples of the engineering achievements that shaped the modern world and the Scots who stood behind them. From the 1700s to early this century, Scotland and world- class engineering were synonymous. The rise of the country’s heavy industries, coupled with mass production of its natural resources - coal, iron, textiles — saw Scotland benefit from an expanding world market, while the country’s top scientific minds applied themselves to improving the technology and machinery. Since World War I, however, the challenge from stronger foreign markets and conflicting political policies of nationalisation and privatisation have weakened the traditional industries that fed Scotland’s engineering genius.
At least, that is how the situation is generally perceived. The record is about to be set straight, however, as the Science Festival teams up with American company ISI to investigate the number of times contemporary Scottish engineers are cited in scientific papers across the world. ‘It does turn out that Scotland is over- represented compared with the rest of the UK by quite a long chalk,’ confirms Bruce Durie, Director and Chief Executive of the Festival. ‘The top engineers, by this kind of analysis, are at the traditionally strong engineering departments at the universities. l
think we’ve managed to demonstrate that there is an awful lot of good engineering going on in Scotland, and that it still has an influence around the world.’
This year, the Science Festival will make an award to a highly cited engineer working at the cutting edge of research. It is hoped that, given the overall context of the Festival and its emphasis on encouraging young people to take an interest in science, that recognition of such work will have a long-tenn benefit. ‘It will be interesting for kids to see the mirror in which they’re reflected twenty years down the line, as it were,’ continues Durie. ‘That’s the boulder at the top of the mountain. it’s important for kids to have role models and something to aspire to.’ (Alan Morrison)
The question ‘ls Scotland Still Tops In Engineering?’ will be posed by David Pendlebury at the Royal Museum of Scotland on 19 April at 11 .30am. (Free.)
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A'Gettlng the best from your PC If you thought the SEGA mega CD was the cutting edge of home technology, then think again. The future is visiting the Fringe Office for the Science Festival, in the form of a computer arcade with a selection of gadgetry from all over the world: Computers that can recognise your handwriting or grab your picture from a live video and then ‘morph’ you into something else, can impose you into a virtual reality or simply show you a picture of your home village.
‘By this time in 1997 half of Edinburgh will own one of these things,’ says the arcade’s organiser, Cavan Convery, ‘but you can see it here first.’ He denies that the arcade will be like a normal high-street computer shop, as ‘You can’t get to use everything that’s on display in a
shop, and here, the staff will actually know what they are talking about.’ Disturbingly, although there is no one computer that can virtualise reality on its own, most of the component parts are there. Including an interactive gadget you attach to your fingers which can tell how relaxed you are. As you make yourself increasingly calm, you can cause an icon to ‘evolve’ from a fish to a mermaid and other bizarre animals. Spooky. Intel, microchip manufacturers extraordinaire are one of the major companies setting out their wares at the Arcade, just to prove that the festival is not unsullied by commercial sponsorship. They claim to have their chips in 90 per cent of the world’s personal computers and their ‘office for the next century’, including voice recognition, will be on show. So if your office PC of the 90s isn’t working, now is a good opportunity to ask them why. They are also sponsoring lectures on the history of the personal computer at the Royal Museum of Scotland. (Thom Dibdln) Computer Arcade, Fringe Office, 180 High Street. Sat 10—Sat 24, 10am-5pm. Free. The Personal Computer: A Brief History and a Long Future, Royal Museum of Scotland, Chambers Street. Wed 14, Thurs 15, 11am. £1.25 (50p).
Ho women on the Science Map of Edinburgh, but Charles Darwin lived at 11 Lothian Street. The map costs 21 from the Fringe Office and most Science Festival Venues.
I Women in Science Women in the Medical World. Royal Museum of Scotland. Sun 11. 2pm; Women in Science and 'l'echnology. (‘amera ()bscura. .‘vlon l2. 2pm. Sadly. the lidinburgh Science Map produced for the festival does not feature any women. However. the lidinburgh Women's Science Forum are organising several events. including historical walks around Edinburgh. looking at places where female scientists lived and worked. I Holding a Mirror up to Nature: Royal Pharmaceutical Society. Thurs 15. 10am 5.30pm. Which way do you hold your pen‘.’ Does it make a difference? A day of lectures examining left and right-handedness in nature. from the honeysuckle to symmetry in molecules. I Animals, Science and Society (‘ity Chambers, Wed 2 l. 9.30am 5.30pm. (‘an a caring modern society justify its use of animals in experiments? Can it afford not to'.’ During this all-day session a panel of three experts from the RSP('A. Institute of Medical lithics. and l(‘l will cross- examine two sets of expert witnesses: for and against the use of animals
in laboratory testing. I Greening Up Royal
Museum of Scotland. Fri 23. 0am-5pm. l‘rom compost power lo
‘ recovering (‘FCs from
f fridges. the science (and the politics) of recycling will be disCUssed. The
event is organised by Save Waste and Prosper who
I are regarded as the leading community
' recycling organisation in
Britain. so a relevant and
; informative day is